For a landscape photographer, Iceland is one of the places that is a must-go location. The country is like a living book of how the world was created and shaped with active volcanoes and glaciers cutting out the landscape.
I am in the process of planning a photography workshop over to this fabulous country and I have just returned from an eventful trip which just happened to coincide with the strongest storm of the year, however, despite conditions which included wind speeds in excess of 100mph, driving snow and road closures, it was still possible to get some great images.
We arrived into Keflavik Airport on Monday evening and planned to head to Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsness peninsula which should be around 3 hours drive. This was the first night of the storm though and we didn’t actually make it to the little village and had to spend the night in the car as we eventually became stuck in snow drifts, fortunately we had all our clothes with us and had a full tank of fuel so we managed to stay warm into the morning when things had calmed down. We took the decision to drive back toward Borgarnes and on the way stop off to take some photos of interesting locations.
Throughout Iceland you will see farms often with old machinery in the fields, which can make for good foreground interest. This plough was in front of one of the vast plains with just a hint of sun over the mountains as the previous nights storm was dissipating.
We drove on to Borgarnes and on the outskirts of the city we found this pretty little church. It plays a large part in the Egill Saga as it was the birthplace of Egill. It is an unusual church in that it points North to South instead of the usual East-West which would make it great for Northern Lights photos if we were lucky to have clear skies.
That evening we had dinner and noticed the skies were starting to clear over Borgarnes and so walked along to waterfront just as we were treated with a stunning display of the Aurora Borealis. I positioned myself so the display looked as if it was appearing from the monument on the top of the hill which celebrates the point where Egills nursemaid jumped into the seas to escape Egills father, Skallagrímur Kveldúlfsson, who was angry at her for stopping him killing his son! Interesting stories these Icelandic Saga’s.
The following morning we were faced with road closures so had to spend a few hours in Borgarnes waiting for the winds to die down enough that it would be safe to drive (apparently 70mph winds aren’t that bad). We headed to a local park area that had some lovely trees that were standing out against the snow and took this fun little image by moving the camera whilst the shutter was open. I quite like the painterly feel it has and it would make a lovely abstract print.
Eventually the roads were opened and we were able to get as far as Reykjavik where we headed up to the imposing Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral which is lit up nicely at night and the icy walkway seemed to keep people from walking in front of me whilst taking this shot.
The next morning we finally got back onto the planned agenda with a trip out to Geysir. The conditions made photographing the Strokkur geyser quite difficult with the eruption of water, which happens every five minutes, so almost impossible to capture against the grey skies. As were driving away from the geyser field the sun started to come from behind the clouds just as we spotted this small herd of Icelandic Ponies who were more than happy to pose for us. I was given a tip by local that if you have a plastic bag in your pocket the rustling sound makes the pony think you will be offering it a sugar cube and so they turn their head to you – one of the least expensive photography accessories you will need for a trip.
The next stop was the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, a famous landmark as it is possible to walk behind the waterfall, or at least it is in the summer months, however, with freezing pathways they were closed off. I always try to look for something different in a location from the usual shots that other photographers take and I was rewarded with a short walk down the river to capture the sun setting in the distance and large cracks in the ice that had frozen over the river.
The following morning we were heading to the Vatnajökull National Park area. The trip from our lodgings was about 3 hours, much of the journey, across huge lava fields looking like the surface of the moon. Halfway across one of them we found a parking place and managed to capture one of the most spectacular sunrises I have seen.
As we entered the National Park we headed toward one of the several glacial tongues and what would be my favourite location of the trip. The Svinafell Glacier is a short drive off the main road and has a small lagoon that the glacier drops icebergs into as it retreats back away from the sea. There is a fairly gentle walk around the lagoon where you can get very close to the icebergs and have the huge mountains in the background. It would have been very easy to spend the rest of the day here but we had another location to get to and so drove on.
The final location of the day was the famous Glacier Lagoon at Jökulsarlon. The vastness of the lagoon can make it quite difficult to find the right way to photograph it so I tried to hunt out one or two icebergs that were isolated from the rest like this one which was nicely placed in the pool of glacial water which was being lit up by the golden light that is pretty much continuous in the daylight hours when the skies aren’t covered in cloud.
As the daylight was ending we headed across the road to the beach where the fresh glacial waters meet the Atlantic Ocean that roars onto the black sands and pushes escaping icebergs back onto the beach. Unfortunately for us the tide was coming in rather than the better scenario of a retreating – this meant having to brave the water coming in and hoping that it wasn’t so big as to come over the top of our insulated boots. The gift shop at the lagoon did a roaring trade in selling fresh socks to those of us got caught by the waves but it was certainly worth it for shots like this final one of the trip.
The plan for our final day was ruined by another snowstorm that hit the South of the island. We were going to capture the large sea stacks at Vik but this will need to be on my next trip which I am planning for March next year.
If you are interested in finding out more about the workshop I will be running in October 2015 please drop me a mail to email@example.com and I will add you to the mailing list when it is launched next year.